A young man has written an important historical book that looks at 71 New Zealand families who lost three or more children in World War 1.

Josh Scadden, 19, who lives in Dunedin but has family and friends in Kāpiti, has spent a painstaking time creating Broken Branches.

His interest was ignited in 2014 during a year 11 history class at Kings High School, Dunedin, when a research assignment looked at the Battle of Passchendaele where hundreds of New Zealanders died.

"One of the things I found out about was the Newlove brothers, from Takaka, who were three brothers killed at Passchendaele.


"I also found out about the O'Gormans, from Wellington, where two died at Passendaele and two the following year."

After the research assignment was completed Josh carried on his investigation with a focus on those families who had lost three or more in the war.

"No one else had done this so I thought I would do it."

The list gradually grew from a total of three to 71 families comprising nine families of four and 62 families of three.

It was a long and arduous task going through the online Cenotaph Database, Papers Past featuring digitised newspapers, making contact with various families, writing and redrafting.

Cover of Broken Branches.
Cover of Broken Branches.

Josh, who became Dunedin RSA's first junior member at the age of 13, has managed to get photographs of each person and has has tried to find interesting anecdotes about individuals instead of just "they served here".

Each case was sad but a few stood out.

"The Bremner's, from Gisborne, had six children total - three died in infancy and the other three were killed in the war.


"And the father was wounded at Gallipoli and came home.

"The Carr's, from Waihao in South Canterbury, had three sons killed in four days."

Broken Branches, which refers to broken branches from family trees, has taken about four years, which is about the same duration as The Great War [1914-1918] all those years ago.

"I started it around the same time the centenary started and it was published just before Armistice Day [100th anniversary].

"I'm very happy with it.

"It took a lot of work."

Josh, who is studying biochemistry at Otago University, said the book's publisher Fair Dinkum had printed 150 copies.

"I think we've sold about 100 so far."

A copy of Broken Branches [$45 excluding postage] can be ordered online via www.fairdinkumbooks.com/product-page/broken-branches